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Is it really worth it to have expensive interfaces/converters? Audio Interfaces
Old 21st August 2007
  #1
Gear Head
 

Is it really worth it to have expensive interfaces/converters?

I'm looking to upgrade my interface, or simply add a nice DA/AD converter to my system. Currently, I have a M-Audio Firewire 410... Before spending a ton of money (since I'm also upgrading my monitors), I'm checking out a couple avenues.

The real question is: with electronic music, is it really worth having something like a RME Fireface 400/800 or even an Apogee Ensemble? I'm sure they sound great, but is there really that much of a noticable difference for the $1500-2000?

A more cost effective approach I'm considering is simply running digital out from my Mac Pro, into either a Benchmark DAC-1 or an RME ADI-2-then into the monitors I plan to buy.

Perhaps my sound will improve just as much going the 2nd approach...? Thoughts and recommenations please...thanks guys-
Old 21st August 2007
  #2
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maks's Avatar
 

to answer your 1st q. I think it isnt essential to have the best, its really in the balance of everything you have and knowing it really well. eg. having a super da with ****ty speakers is not in balance

For alot of electronic music most times your working with sources that are not as harmonically rich as say jazz/classical even some rock music. I used to own genelec 1030+ benchmark dac1, and one thing i always found was that stuff sounded amazing at home and i would spend lots of time on details cause you can literally hear thru sound on those, yet when played outside in clubs or even the car, those little verbs and details would bearly come thru. I think of the very high-end gear as microscopes, sometimes seeing in too much isnt the answer..yet this couldve easily been balanced in my case if i had another system to A/B at the moment

RME/Ensemble is nice, but do you really need 8 outs?
Unless you have a need to work in surround or use summing mixers or insert outboard effects, this may be a little too much

now i use a high-end system for eq's, verbs, fine details and a cheaper monitor system to set levels

good luck
Old 21st August 2007
  #3
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teknosmoker's Avatar
 

I upgraded from a MOTU PCI-based system (1224 & 2408) to a Fireface 800 and the difference is night and day. It sounds as if a "hazy" blanket has been lifted away. I'm running Logic Pro and the same 2 computers you have.

Mind you, I don't use softsynths much and I do incorporate outboard gear when mixing. So I'm doing a good amount of A/D D/A conversion.


-T
Old 21st August 2007
  #4
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John_McEnroe's Avatar
 

Search youtube for the video of Jimmy Tamborello's studio (Dntel, Postal Service) He has tons of wicked gear including analog synths, drum machines outboard compressors and FX... and he uses two MOTU 828mk2's. Personally I think all the records he works on sound incredible, I cant see how anyone would say they were not of extremely high sonic quality. Works for him...
Old 21st August 2007
  #5
Gear Addict
 

Has he had the Black Lion mods done on his 828s?
Old 21st August 2007
  #6
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John_McEnroe's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by cornutt View Post
Has he had the Black Lion mods done on his 828s?
He doesnt specify... but im not sure why he would get them modded when he could obviously afford to just buy any top of the line converters he could wish for. He obviously doesnt see any need to improve this part of his recording chain. He is probably too busy making music.
Old 21st August 2007
  #7
Gear Nut
 

If you are doing a ton of digital processing post AD conversion... compression, eq, etc. than converters can matter...but if you are using outboard stuff before you convert it doesn't make that much of a difference. I agree with the Jimmy Tamborello comment.
Old 21st August 2007
  #8
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Strobian's Avatar
Convertors make a huge difference, especially if you are using outboard gear, and it helps in monitoring quite a bit. Its a must have.

I do have the Black Lion Audio mods, and their new micro clock with my 2408, and it sounds incredible. Its like someone put the bass and highs back in my tracks, the original Motu sounded very flat & limp, slightly hazy, as do some of the digi units. If you had a unit that you can get that done its worth it, if not you need to decide which route you need to go. My friend has the ensemble and its a great unit with good features for the money. All I can say is once you get into it more, having extra ins and outs are really priceless. I run into a hardware compressor so the 2408 for me has been fantastic.

I spent the first half of my "music journey" buyin the average brands that "worked" only to be unhappy with my sound, asking the same questions you are. I now only buy brands like API etc. and they deliver. For me its not about money its about results, so get the item that delivers you wont be sorry you spent the money, and when you go (if) to sell it, you'll get almost everything you paid for it.
Old 21st August 2007
  #9
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jbuehler's Avatar
 

When I upgraded my converters it was a night a day difference too.

For the better monitoring alone it is worth it even if you are ITB all the time.
Old 22nd August 2007
  #10
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gio.vanni's Avatar
 

I believe in investing your money evenly throughout your studio. So don't go out and get a Casio to affor an Apogee Ensemble. However, get what you can and make your signal flow as solid as possible... then just upgrade as time goes on. Now to answer your question, YES converters are important. For example, i am almost done layout of my project studio. By layout I mean all my gear is in place and everything is pretty well done. Now all I am doing is upgrading certain pices as I go along... the first thing is going to be swapping out my Layla for an Ensemble or RME Fireface. Converters make a world of a difference. You catch my drift?
Old 22nd August 2007
  #11
Gear Head
 

ok so simply adding a good converter (i will more than likely get the benchmark) (digital out from the macpro into the monitors, INSTEAD of upgrading my interface all together? (I'm mostly using softsynths these days... the virus and motif need to be dusted off)
Old 22nd August 2007
  #12
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YUGA's Avatar
 

If you use only software insts and effects and don't use 88.2/96Khz, getting a quality DAC (such as Benchmark DAC-1, Lavry Black, and Apogee Mini-DAC) and directly connecting to your Mac Pro's optical-out makes sense (very low latency!). But I see you have a Virus C and Motif so you need at least 2ch of A to D converters as well. If you want a quality audio interface, also look at Metric Halo ULN-2 since you're a Mac guy.
Old 22nd August 2007
  #13
Gear Nut
 
Luko's Avatar
 

so the black lion mods are worth it then?

we run a heap of hardware synths , RS7000 etc.. and patch it all into my Motu Traveller

I have asked this question before, but not here, and the answer people throw back at you is the money can be better spent elsewhere

these "night & day" comments make me think otherwise...

also do they take long to do it and get the soundcard back to you? I hate the thought of being without it for weeks..

cheers
Old 22nd August 2007
  #14
Gear Head
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by YUGA View Post
If you want a quality audio interface, also look at Metric Halo ULN-2 since you're a Mac guy.
How would you say the Metric Halo compares to the Fireface 400? (mainly the converters and overall sound?) I eventually want the Ensemble for sure...especially since it goes hand-in-hand with Logic...although, hopefully by then, they make a smaller unit with less outputs, etc...It has more than I need.
Old 22nd August 2007
  #15
My experience with converters has been one of trial and error. IMO your converter makes a huge difference, especially in electronic music. A/D clarity can your mix, D/A is important to monitor while mixing. These are my experiences with converters without going into the $7000 range:

Protools Digi 002 converters: Crappy converter compared to converters used below.

Lucid 2 channel A/D: A step above Digi-002. No added
color, a bit more bass heavy. I found I could push the EQ's quite a bit to get the sound I wanted.

Apogee Rosetta 800: 8 channel A/D and D/A. Crystal clear sound. Not very bass heavy. Nice coloration on tracked sounds. After laying down multiple tracks, I experienced the hi's on overload and had to use EQ's to trim them. Difficult to EQ. Everything sounded the same after a while.

Lavry Blue 2 Channel A/D: Transpearant sound. No added hi's or low's. Very plain, no color added or distictiveness to the sound. Everything I put into it seemed to EQ nicley, but with nothing special added.

Universal Audio 2192: Class-A analog circuitry, nice clarity with a "punch" while adding warmth and character of the original source. No added color. Everything seems to sound hude using this converter, definatly a keeper.

The difference in converters is worth it's price. The Benchmark DAC-1 is a great unit for D/A monitoring. You get what you pay for.
Old 22nd August 2007
  #16
Lives for gear
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Popbott View Post
My experience with converters has been one of trial and error. IMO your converter makes a huge difference, especially in electronic music. A/D clarity can your mix, D/A is important to monitor while mixing. These are my experiences with converters without going into the $7000 range:

Protools Digi 002 converters: Crappy converter compared to converters used below.

Lucid 2 channel A/D: A step above Digi-002. No added
color, a bit more bass heavy. I found I could push the EQ's quite a bit to get the sound I wanted.

Apogee Rosetta 800: 8 channel A/D and D/A. Crystal clear sound. Not very bass heavy. Nice coloration on tracked sounds. After laying down multiple tracks, I experienced the hi's on overload and had to use EQ's to trim them. Difficult to EQ. Everything sounded the same after a while.

Lavry Blue 2 Channel A/D: Transpearant sound. No added hi's or low's. Very plain, no color added or distictiveness to the sound. Everything I put into it seemed to EQ nicley, but with nothing special added.

Universal Audio 2192: Class-A analog circuitry, nice clarity with a "punch" while adding warmth and character of the original source. No added color. Everything seems to sound hude using this converter, definatly a keeper.

The difference in converters is worth it's price. The Benchmark DAC-1 is a great unit for D/A monitoring. You get what you pay for.

i'm confused. for most of these converters you say "no added color" but then go on to say how they add bass or punch or sounds huge etc.. isn't that a contradiction? not trying to be a smart ass just trying to figure out what you are trying to describe.

what i've heard about lavry's is what goes in is what comes out.. the sound is as close to the original source as a converter can get.. there's no hype.

i looked into the UA 2192 and from what i read it's the discrete electronics that make it sound the way it does.. the class A stuff colors the sound like any class A device could/would/should.

i've never heard any of the converters you mention so i'm only repeating what i've read in very long converter threads here on GS.
Old 23rd August 2007
  #17
Quote:
Originally Posted by ignatius View Post
i'm confused. for most of these converters you say "no added color" but then go on to say how they add bass or punch or sounds huge etc.. isn't that a contradiction?

what i've heard about lavry's is what goes in is what comes out..

the class A stuff colors the sound like any class A device could/would/should.
Ignatius,<?xml:namespace prefix = o ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:office" /><o:p></o:p>
<o:p></o:p>
As I was writing the post trying to describe the converters I kept thinking “Crap, I’m setting myself up for trouble!” I apologize for any confusion. It seems everyone has a different interpretation of the words used to describe the sound of a converter, especially the word “color”. <o:p></o:p>
<o:p></o:p>
IMO "color" has nothing to do with bass or treble, but more about tone.

“Punch” to me is how hard the sound comes in, again, nothing to do with bass or treble. <o:p></o:p>
<o:p></o:p>
The Apogee Rosetta 800: IMO has it’s own flavor or color it adds to your tracks. It’s not transparent to my ears. Stacking the sound of this converter on my tracks bothered me, gives my tracks that “Apogee sound” on my mixes using the Digi-002. <o:p></o:p>
<o:p></o:p>
The Lavry Blue: Completely transparent, like you said, what goes in is what comes out, no hype. I didn’t like this for use on my Digi-002, but I would imagine if you have a very nice mixing consol, the transparent sound would be preferred.<o:p></o:p>
<o:p></o:p>
Universal Audio 2192: Overall, before purchasing the UA, I didn’t know if I was going to like it after being disappointed by the Lavry. I was using an Empirical Labs Fatso Jr. to fatten up my sound using the Rosetta 800. I have since sold the EL Fatso after using the UA 2192. It seems to give my tracks the extra “umph” in my Digi-002, probably because of the class a circuitry. This unit works for me. <o:p></o:p>
<o:p></o:p>
It’s been a very expensive time consuming continuing journey to test the converters on my own turf. We (my production partner and I) did so much online research, phone calls to dealers, studios, trying out friends converters, etc. What works for us might not necessarily work for someone else. But I am happy to post my results so far, hopefully it will help! <o:p></o:p>
Old 23rd August 2007
  #18
Gear Addict
 
gio.vanni's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by stevelibby3 View Post
How would you say the Metric Halo compares to the Fireface 400? (mainly the converters and overall sound?) I eventually want the Ensemble for sure...especially since it goes hand-in-hand with Logic...although, hopefully by then, they make a smaller unit with less outputs, etc...It has more than I need.
I was wondering the same thing. I am most likely upgrading to the RME Fireface 400 in the very near future. The 400 has everything I need as far as inputs and outputs is concerned.
Old 23rd August 2007
  #19
Gear Addict
 

uhmmm worth it?

making music its about the vibe, some "right" equipment will help record it easy or accurate
but whats "right" ? whats using it "right" ?

"right" relative & subjective, sometimes "wrong"
sometimes objective
theory of relativity,

going to a $1million dollar super studio with your best song,
and doing samething at your home studio
then make some A/B test,
could help solve your question

some dj producers have a basic home studio to do a draft then go to a $1million dollar studio
some have a $1million dollar studio at home
some research a lot to find the "right" equipment for them,
some hire others to use it "right"
some just use what others use
some use digi001 and making waves

its relative, for example:
giorgio mooroder sound
vs.
Tomita - Snowflakes Are Dancing sound
vs.
walter "wendy" carlos - switched on vol1&2 sound

they have same big modular analog synths
they have 2inch tape machines
they sound diferent

i like the tomita sound , mixing, eq, efxs

i just try to make that in digital
= having the tomita home studio its out of reach or not practic or not efficient these days
for me

every digital eq sounds diferent , whats "right" ?

may help:
http://audio.rightmark.org
3D Audio Inc-Homepage
The Listening Sessions
Vintage Synth Explorer
lots of A/B tests
Old 23rd August 2007
  #20
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Strobian's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by sexxy View Post
making music its about the vibe, some "right" equipment will help record it easy or accurate
but whats "right" ? whats using it "right" ?

"right" relative & subjective, sometimes "wrong"
sometimes objective
theory of relativity,
Well great convertors are right. If you want your stuff to sound its best, you need them. In computer recording with external gear, you have to have them or you may as well stay with a console. Any vibe you create is funneled through that window, they can squeeze the life right out of a recording or display the life that was in there. Its like the idea of a good preamp, it brings to life everything run through it.
Old 23rd August 2007
  #21
Quote:
Originally Posted by sexxy View Post

making music its about the vibe, some "right"

but whats "right" ? whats using it "right" ?

"right" relative & subjective, sometimes "wrong"

some research a lot to find the "right" equipment for them,

some hire others to use it "right"

every digital eq sounds diferent , whats "right" ?

Umm...hmmmm. What? Oh, right.
Old 23rd August 2007
  #22
Old 23rd August 2007
  #23
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Eigenwert's Avatar
The 2192 was the biggest investment I ever made at the moment of its purchase. And it was the best investment ever. It even makes me happy when listening to music on my headphones while posting on gearslutz
Old 7th September 2007
  #24
Gear Nut
 
joec's Avatar
 

What's your DAW config for Universal Audio 2192?

Eigenwert and Popbott,
I'm on a quest to lowering monitoring latency and improving my sound, and my DAC's are the only thing left to upgrade, excluding the CPU.

I just checked out the manual for the Universal Audio 2192, and the ap note for DAW is through a RME - DIGI9652 via ADAT.

What are you guys using to interface to your computer?

I'm coming from a Firewire solution, and I have no experience with ADAT.

BTW, I've just noticed that my firewire DAC has ADAT connectors. I've never had occasion to use them, so I never paid much attention to them. I guess I can tie into them.
Thanks,
jc
Old 8th September 2007
  #25
Gear Maniac
 

One thing that convinced me to buy a better A/d (just did so a couple of days ago) was a/b-ing what I heard from the monitor section of the console and what was getting recorded in digital. It wasnt 'night and day' it was alive & dead-ish. All I want is for it to sound roughly the same. It can go on to lose in translation on every other system but this is still as good as it will ever get (by the way I'm not sure I totally agree about club sound systems, they can pull forward a lot of details too - some of the sound systems in London are fiercely high end even by gearslutz standards).

Yes the arrangement, mix, groove etc. are 'more important' - and its true that there is no point if other things in your chain are cheap (or cheap-sounding) - but it was the clearest thing I've ever heard which you could just fix by buying a better box.

I've no idea if any of that would apply if I mixed in the box obviously, maybe d/a for monitoring and better mix decisions would be more important there?

:J

ps fingers crossed though, I dont get it till next week, no chance to demo since I bought 2nd hand. Worst case it is chalked up to experience & back on the bay.
Old 8th September 2007
  #26
Lives for gear
 

Yes! I upgraded from a focusrite Saffire to an Apogee Ensemble and I feel great about what Im hearing now. Not to mention that the Pre's on this are a whole different animal than the Saffire.
Old 11th September 2007
  #27
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7161's Avatar
 

i'll play devils advocate here and say no it's not worth it

any decent stereo asio soundcard nowadays should offer adequate monitoring.

the proof of the pudding would be for the ones who say "yes it is" to post up 2 examples of their work.. one done before they switched and one after and let's hear it for ourselves.
Old 17th September 2007
  #28
Here for the gear
 
likewisepro's Avatar
 

Regardless of what AD/DA conversion you use, it's not going to make your songs instantly hot. There are plenty of hot tracks run through some of the crappiest gear. A 'final' mix is going to someone else anyways probably, and they're going to stomp on it like Fat Bastard. Mastering can be a bit overdone easily, death to the dynamics, so just be wary---and if you're doing pre, mixing/engineering, post, and mastering at commercial levels all yourself, your ear won't hear the song properly anymore anyways-even if it's been a week and your ears have had time off---it's like buying a new cd, playing it non-stop for a week, then the songs usually wont have as much of an impact for you. But yes, the difference is night and day with good conversion.
Old 18th September 2007
  #29
Gear Addict
 

soundcard dilema::
AD/DA chips
op-amps
circuit design: dc-blocked by cappacitors, electronically balanced,etc..
wordclock sweetness and accuracy
asio drivers performance

i own rme hdsp9632 the asio drivers are great and the SteadyClock(TM) sounds beutifull

the 1820m asio drivers are not good, the wordclock 576ps sounds like crap compared to SteadyClock(TM)

but... the AD/DA in 1820m + SteadyClock(TM)
sounds amazing
makes the RME HDSP9632 AD/DA sound like:::
silver vs. gold

i dont like the AD/DA RME sound in my hdsp9632, but the ASiO drivers and the SteadyClock(TM) love them
subjective speaking, personal taste, maybe you do
its not black or white

if you listen a hi-jitter recorded song "old ones", with a verry low-jitter like emu 1820m will sound like crap,
but..
if you listen a low-jitter recorded song "most new ones" with a pro hi-jitter device like alesis ai-2, highs will almost dissapear

i like to keep arround my old alesis ai-2 sometimes hi-jitter sounds great
but RME SteadyClock(TM) its verry musical and compatible
dont like the emu1820m wordclock

other wordclock i like its the m-audio audiophile 192,
makes the tc electronic finalizer express wordclock sound like wrong highs

the drivers: ?
RME hdsp9632 Asio are the best so far (but output have a 32samples safe buf
but are the best ASIO so far, no DS, MME usable ()
digi001 Asio are verry good, DS/MME sometimes usable
M-audio audiophile 192 verry good DS drivers 20ms, Asio usable
emu 1820m Asio usable to 8ms/384samples, MME/DS 40ms usable
digi002 asio drivers v.6.x not verry usable

soon to test lynx drivers
the chips: ?
when listening m-audio ap192 vs. emu 1820m
i noticed that AKM DA sounds verry diferent than cirrus logic DA
AKM in M-audio AP192 sounds plastic up front, vs. soft-knee realistic

the AD in 1820m sounded much better than the AD in M-audio AP192
both akm but newer model

even the cirrus logic DA sounds more "analog" i like more the AKM DA plasic up-front sound

circuit design?

the m-audio audiphile 192, wordclock signal was getting too hot to the AD/DA chips, sounded like a bit overloaded, and a bit clipped,

some free cakewalk.com trumpet samples sounded clipped in the m-audio ap192, but... didnt sounded clipped in the emu 1820m + m-audio ap192 wordclock by s/pdif

the rme hdsp9632 has cirrus logic DA like emu 1820m DA, but.. older
they sound diferent, but same cirrus logic vibe
the RME DA sounds more grey (almost colorless), more bass, and a bit more detailed
the emu 1820m+SteadyClock(TM) sounds golden colored, a bit less bass, and a bit blurish/less detailed in some parts
even its lower noise and newer chip
not to worry

i like more the 1820m with RME SteadyClock(TM) colored sound, over the grey lifeless but detailed sound

im thinking about getting an esi ex8000 and usign it by adat with the RME hdsp9632 SteadyClock(TM)
or a lynx aurora 8 or lucid audio 88192, or UA2192, or Lynx TWO/L22

anyway,
havent heard A/B the Burr-Brown Texas Instruments AD/DA chips
there are files to listen in
MYTEK DIGITAL USA
and
Black Lion Audio Home

EMU 1820M/1212M: A/D:AKM AK5394A; D/A: Cirrus Logic CS4398
Lynx TWO/L22: A/D:AKM AK5394A; D/A: Cirrus Logic CS4396
RME HDSP 9632: A/D:AKM AK5385A; D/A: Analog Devices 1852
M-Audio Audiophile 192: A/D:AKM AK5385A; D/A: AKM AK4358
ESI [email protected]: A/D:AKM AK5385A; D/A: AKM AK4358
EGO SYSTEMS MAXIO EX8K: A/D:AKM AK5394A; D/A: AKM AK4395
DIGI 192 I/O PTHD: A/D:AKM AK5394A; D/A: AKM AK4394
mackie.com 400f, DXB: A/D:AKM AK5385A; D/A: AKM AK4358

RME FireFace800: A/D:AKM AK5385A; D/A: AKM AK4396
RME ADI-8DS: A/D:AKM AK5393A; D/A: Analog Devices 1852
APOGEE AD8000SE: A/D:AKM AK5391; D/A: Analog Devices 1851

EMU 1820: A/D: Texas Instruments PCM1804; D/A: Cirrus Logic CS4392
EMU 0404: A/D: Texax Instruments PCM1804; D/A: AKM AK4395
Old 18th September 2007
  #30
Lives for gear
 
Dysanfel's Avatar
Your mileage may vary, but my experience has been that unless your spending big money on your converters than probably the difference in sound quality from a high quality interface is not worth the extra money. This is more true for electronic music, less true with acoustic music.

I sold my RME ADI-2 that I was using with my 002 because the difference was too small to justify spending $700.
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